Surrender a stickhandle for James?

Likely part of legal strategy, observers say


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Graham James may be known as a lot of things -- a disgraced former hockey coach and convicted sex predator among them -- but nobody has ever suggested he is a stupid man.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/10/2010 (4350 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Graham James may be known as a lot of things — a disgraced former hockey coach and convicted sex predator among them — but nobody has ever suggested he is a stupid man.

So, it was quite curious that James bought a one-way ticket and boarded an airplane in Mexico this week to fly back to Canada only weeks after criminal charges were laid against him.

Why would he be so eager to trade his new life in a foreign land for a small, segregated jail cell in Winnipeg? Especially when he had all the power to control his fate, at least in the short term. There was nothing stopping James from staying put and forcing Canadian justice officials to initiate costly, time-consuming efforts to try to get him back. The process would have taken months, perhaps years.

Bill Herriot / Postmedia News ARCHIVES The decision by Graham James to turn himself in will likely help any pursuit of bail, a law professor says.

Yet, James made it all so easy by surrendering himself at Toronto’s Pearson Airport Wednesday morning, where Winnipeg police officers were waiting with open arms to take him into custody.

Several justice sources who spoke to the Free Press on Thursday believe there is a reason James decided not to become an international fugitive.

“I think this goes directly to bail for him,” said Debra Parkes, a law professor at the University of Manitoba. She expects James will have a strong argument to make for being freed from custody in short order because he has now demonstrated he isn’t a flight risk by quickly coming home to face the legal music.

“When someone is living in Mexico and they don’t co-operate and come back willingly — which he did — the Crown would definitely be able to use that against him,” said Parkes.

A lawyer for James appeared in court Thursday morning to have the case put over to Monday.

James did not appear himself and remains in custody.

The Crown is expected to be opposed to any bid by James to get bail and a special sitting before a Manitoba judge will likely be set up next week. But James may have eliminated the best argument they would have had for keeping him behind bars.

Other arguments commonly used in bail hearings — such as being an ongoing risk to commit further criminal offences — likely wouldn’t apply in this case given the fact James’ allegations date back so many years.

For now, James remains in custody at the downtown Winnipeg Remand Centre, where sources say he is being segregated from other inmates for his own protection.

The bail issue aside, several justice observers are now wondering if talks are already underway to quickly resolve the case. That is also raising questions about what type of sentence James might be looking at if convicted or found guilty.

Sources say a lengthy prison term is unlikely. The new allegations involve nine charges surrounding three former junior hockey players — including former NHL star Theo Fleury — who claim they were sexually assaulted during incidents that date back as far as the late 1970s. But the case is complicated by the fact James has already been charged, convicted, sentenced and even pardoned for more than 100 similar offences that occurred during the same general time period against three other former players.

“This isn’t a matter of just adding up the number of victims and multiplying by a certain amount to get a sentence,” Parkes said Thursday. She said the Canadian justice system is required to factor in the principle of “totality” when deciding on a sentence, meaning a judge would have to take into consideration the 31/2 years in prison James was sentenced to in 1997 for hundreds of sex-related charges against his initial three victims.

Sources say James’ lawyer will likely argue that his previous prison term likely wouldn’t have been much different had the courts been aware of these three latest complainants at the time — and therefore he shouldn’t be forced to pay a heavy price now because of their delay in disclosure.

“You can’t revisit the earlier sentence. That would be double jeopardy,” said Parkes. “Sentencing is a very discretional exercise. His lawyer would probably be trying to negotiate as much as possible.”

At this point, neither Crown attorney Colleen McDuff or defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg are saying much about the case publicly. James will likely be stripped of the controversial pardon he received for his original crimes in 2007, which will make future trips to Mexico or anywhere else outside of Canada very difficult.

It’s also possible this may not be the final stop for James’s legal carousel. Police are continuing to investigate and haven’t ruled out the possibility of more victims coming forward and further charges.

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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